Thursday, April 12, 2018

"A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary" by Donna Fletcher Crow

Felicity Howard arrives in Oxford, hired by the Sisters of the Love of God to translate an old manuscript they’ve been given. The manuscript is in early Latin, and it’s an account of the life of St. Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford who founded a monastery from which the city grew.

In a few days, Felicity will be followed by her fiancée, Father Antony Sherwood, who’s leading a group of men and women in training for a ministry vocation (Felicity herself is one of them). She will first meet with Sister Monica, the mother superior, and be working closely with a nun the order’s publications office.

Sister Monica is supposed to returning from a conference in Canterbury. The nuns find out that Sister Monica never arrived in Canterbury. She’s officially missing. During a church service, Felicity looks at a reliquary that is supposed to be holding the hand of a saint. The problem is that the hand looks a little too contemporary. And then a foot is found in a reliquary on display at the Ashmolean Museum, and Sister Monica’s body not too long after in a river.

Then, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary by Donna Fletcher Crow begins taking even wilder turns. It’s clear that someone wants the manuscript Felicity is working on and will stop at nothing to get it. And it’s not clear why the manuscript is so important, or what it does or doesn’t contain that leads someone to kill.

This is a story that has to be read closely to follow all of the plots and sub-plots. There’s the relationship between Felicity and Antony, Antony’s relationships with his sister and the aunt and uncle who raised them, romance among the people in the group in ministry training, occasionally a confusing shift in viewpoint from Felicity to Antony and back again, a few side trails into medieval times, and even some critical scenes involving the ringing of the church bells at St. Mary Magdalene. It can be a lot to keep track of.

Donna Fletcher Crow
Crow is the author of some 50 books, mostly novels about British history. She has three novels in the Lord Danvers series, A Most Inconvenient Death, Grave Matters, and To Dust You Shall Return, and a second mystery novel series under the theme of “The Monastery Murders,” of which A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary is the fourth.

A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary is an intriguing story with an interesting premise. It’s full of references to the city of Oxford, its streets, its colleges, and some of its famous landmarks, and Crow does well to include them. Oxford itself, in fact, emerges as a kind of major character, and helps to hold the story and side stories together.


Top photograph: the bell tower of Christ College Cathedral in Oxford.

1 comment:

Martha Jane Orlando said...

When I was on a college trip to study British Lit., we spent three glorious weeks in Oxford. Oh, how I'd love to return one day! This does sound like a novel I'd truly enjoy, Glynn.